The Player: Roy Gardner, Chief Executive of Centrica - Gasman turns up the heat for customers

PERSONAL DETAILS: Aged 53. Lives in Hertfordshire and drives a Ferrari. In 1998, Mr Gardner was paid a total of pounds 543,000. He is a keen golfer, Manchester United fan and runner. He has raised money for a number of charities by completing the London Marathon three times. This year he is planning to climb Mount Kilimanjaro for the Carers National Association of which he is President.

CHALLENGE: "To continue to enhance the excellence of our service delivery," says Mr Gardner. British Gas was split in two in February 1997 with Centrica as its production and sales arm and BG, a gas storage and transportation business. Centrica's business mix of upstream gas production and customers, with no pipeline assets between, is almost unique among utilities. Centrica has changed from a gas monopoly supplier to be a provider of a range of products and home services in a competitive market. Mr Gardner wants to build on the British Gas and Goldfish brands.

CORPORATE BACKGROUND: Mr Gardner has been chief executive of Centrica since the demerger of the Supply, Services and Retail businesses from British Gas in February 1997. He joined British Gas as finance director in 1994, and in 1995 took executive responsibility for all trading businesses in British Gas.

He had been managing director of GEC Marconi. Other employers include Northern Telecom Europe, STC and the British Aircraft Corporation. Since 1996, Mr Gardner has been a non-executive director of Laporte.

STRATEGY: "To become the supplier of choice for energy and services for consumers in Britain," says Mr Gardner. Centrica has retained 78 per cent share of the now fully competitive UK domestic gas supply market. "Our brand is extremely strong," says Mr Gardner, noting the high number of domestic gas consumers who have chosen to stay with British Gas though they have a choice of suppliers. In the industrial and commercial sector, Centrica has retained a quarter of the market.

As Centrica, the company is enjoying improved customer relations. In the mid-1990s, British Gas faced a barrage of consumer criticism, earning its place in history as the birthplace of the "Fat Cat" company director. The company has been transformed. Independent customer satisfaction measures show Centrica is "amongst the best in its class", claims Mr Gardner.

The electricity market was opened to competition last August and Centrica has won 1.5 million customers and acquiring 30,000 new ones every week. Mr Gardner says Centrica intends "to retain a large share of the dual fuel market". He envisages just four or five major integrated energy players in the UK market. Centrica is one of the largest gas producers in Morecambe Bay and last year acquired PowerGen North Sea Limited as an additional source of gas. Mr Gardner says although Centrica wantsto invest in power generation it has no intention of buying an electricity supply business, because customer numbers can be grown organically. The acquisition of generation assets would be a significant strategic step forward. Centrica has been mooted as a consortium bidder for Drax, Britain's biggest power station.

Mr Gardner says the group needs to extend the range of products and services it provides for consumers. It already offers electrical and plumbing services and air-conditioning. He believes there is scope to add further services which utilise Centrica's expertise in large-scale customer service. With this strategy, Centrica is this week in talks about its planned pounds 1.1bn purchase of the Automobile Association. Centrica's Services division and the AA have similarities. Both have call centres, teams of engineers who travel to provide direct customer support, and they also sell insurance policies.

Centrica has made a successful debut in the financial services arena with its Goldfish credit card which has 900,000 members. "We intend to build on this," says Mr Gardner who expects to see further banking and insurance products launched under the brand.

Last year, British Gas Services made a profit for the first time, pounds 9m compared to a loss of pounds 49m in 1997.

MANAGEMENT STYLE: Mr Gardner says he is a very strong believer in "the team approach". "I like people to understand how they are going to contribute to the common goal." Mr Gardner says he likes to encourage innovation and maintain total focus on meeting customer needs.

MOST ADMIRES IN BUSINESS: Tesco and Lord MacLaurin of Knebworth, former chief executive of Tesco, because of the group's trans- formation into the UK's premier supermarket. "I think they have done a tremendous job," he says.

CITY VERDICT: Mr Gardner says the City is starting to understand Centrica is not just "a plain old utility". Since demerging, its stockmarket valuation has doubled to pounds 5.5bn. Oil and gas analysts at ABN Amro upgraded their earnings forecasts for 1999 by 10 per cent to pounds 286m.City analysts see scope for the Centrica share price to rise to 160p. This does not include potential growth from a hopefully successful move into home and car insurance.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Content Writer - Global Financial Services

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Consultant - Financial Services - OTE £65,000

£15000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Loan Underwriter

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory